on 25 June 2014
This book collates information about Argentinian tango orchestras and their recordings; the discography is comprehensive for the period covered and the personnel of the orchestras is also included where known. The main limitations of the book are:
- the early period of tango is not covered as the author has chosen an (arbitrary?) date of 1926 to start, so the substantial early careers of musicians such as Firpo and de Caro are omitted, and some important musicians such as Arolas are entirely absent.
- newer music is also omitted although the criteria are not obvious, so for instance Piazzolla's orquesta tipica and octet recordings are included, but not his other ensembles. The cut off is not based on date so it is either a judgement regarding the stylistics of the music or a limitation of the source discographies for this volume.
- arguably the most important creative role in "golden age" and "late golden age" tango music was that of the arranger. If the arranger could be credited where known, or even a list of arrangers working for the different orchestras included, then this would be an extremely valuable and informative resource.
I think this book needs some qualification in the title to indicate that, while it covers the vast majority of music that is likely to be of interest to the tango social dance community, it is very far from being encyclopaedic in its coverage of tango music as a whole. If the limitations I have highlighted could be addressed in a future edition then I think this work would be of much greater interest to musicians, musicologists and tango music enthusiasts as well as for tango DJs.
on 1 June 2014
If you want to make sense of the recorded output of the main tango orchestras, some of which had careers spanning four decades or more, then you need to know the dates of the recordings. For a long time, the only way to access this information handily was with the printed discographies published in Buenos Aires. These were always hard to obtain and are now mostly out-of-print. Gabriel Valiente has here undertaken the enormous job of collating all this information in this mighty reference work, which is not so much an encyclopedia as a data book. He has also included information about the line-up of the orchestras over time, which can give further insight into their development.
With a conventional discography you get the names of the composers, the number of the original disc and, where known, the number of the matrix, i.e. the original physical recording. All this is missing because of space constraints. I quite understand this, but I do miss the lack of an index number for the entries of each orchestra. This makes it difficult to refer to recordings or to compare this discography with others.
Some recording dates, e.g. those of the TK label in the early 1950s, have long been unclear to researchers and I would have appreciated some information about which sources were used in such cases - that would make this work even more useful.
Gathering all the information in this book must have taken many many years, and it's clearly a labour of love. The published work functions as intended as a reference work, but suffers a bit from a lack of professional help in the design and layout, which could be improved without increasing the number of pages. I also didn't really understand the purpose of the introduction, which amongst other things, lists the compositions of the leaders of the "big four" orchestras.
Despite these criticisms, I have found myself reaching for this work regularly in the weeks since my copy arrived. This is not a book for the casual reader, but a resource for those studying tango music. As such, it is much needed, and I think we will soon all be wondering how we managed without it.
I also think it's much too cheap. Gabriel tells me that his aim was not to make any money but to make the book affordable, so that every tango DJ can afford a copy. At this price, it's a steal, and deserves to be on every tango DJ's bookshelf.